A Face and a Name.

Transcript of an interview carried out in November 2016 as research for an article for Groundviews. Photos were not taken at the subject’s request. Locations deleted as a precaution.

“Do I need to tell you my name? No, okay. And no recording too, please, or photos.

I was proposed to a man in 1990, but he was then taken away by the army and kept with them for 6 months. The situation where we lived got dangerous so he went to the ***** to join the LTTE. I was threatened by the PLOTE and EROS, as they questioned me about where my husband was. Finally in 2004, just as her parents were trying to arrange a marriage for me to someone else, I found out where he was and thought of going to join him where he was, with the LTTE. They helped us to get married and in 2005, I had a daughter.

At the peak of the conflict in 2009, we were displaced to ******** so my husband sent my child and I back to ******, where we stayed at the *********** camp. I have had no contact with him since.

I moved in with my family after that. My daughter had to be admitted to hospital and around the same time, my uncle who I was staying with was arrested and taken to the 4th Floor in Colombo. He was interrogated and he revealed the fact that I was living with him – they released him. I moved to ****** with my child, and stayed with my husband’s family for our safety.

Yet the CID came for me in October 2009. My daughter and I were arrested and taken to the 4th Floor. They asked that my mother come and stay with me.

They spoke to me in such filthy language when they questioned me about my husband, about whether I had any contact with him. After a few weeks they told my mother to take my daughter and go home but my child refused so she stayed even when my mother left.

They told me my husband hadn’t come back to the army side or he wasn’t at any of the camps and if I knew where he was. I remained in remand there for 6 months. Women with children were protected from the torture the CID inflicted on women who were alone.

My child is talkative and outgoing so the officers got friendly with her. One day, army came to where we were kept at midnight, and asked me if my child was asleep and if they could come in. I pinched my daughter so she woke up and started crying, this made them go away.

A CID man named *********** used to hit me. In Sinhala he told me, if they released me, I had to go to all the camps and look for my husband.

Twice a month, I was asked to come to the 4th Floor. I had to eventually stop going because the expense was so much plus they would spend each visit questioning me from the top about all the details.

In April 2010, when I was released, they made it clear that I was never to report what had happened to me. I was scared to go to anyone outside the ICRC and HRC for fear that they will come following me.

I stopped working and began to do some small tasks at home, pounding rice flour and spices. They kept calling me so often that I would change my SIM yet a few days later, they would call on the new number.

I’ve lived in a rented house from 2011 to date and have changed 19 houses since I was released, they keep coming to ask me if he is alive. They will suspect any relative I interact with so I’ve cut off contact from all of them. Because I live and raise my child alone, as well as have CID asking after me, people assume that my ‘character is not good’.

My husband joined the movement to protect the Tamil people, we have done nothing wrong.

I’m scared to travel far for fear that I will be followed. After the government changed, the army offered me money, a house and that my daughter would be taken care of if I told them the truth. I haven’t even gone for counselling, because I fear it will only make it worse. Other women think I am a bad woman. Men ask me to come and stay with them but I continue to work hard daily to support my child and I.

After 10pm on the 4th Floor, you don’t hear men’s voices. It’s only the screaming and crying of women who are being abused by the officers; having my daughter was a blessing, it meant I did not suffer like they did.

My husband fought for freedom, he was not a terrorist. The LTTE had a very good system in place. They were good to women and always looked out for their safety.

My child is very observant, especially of my emotions. If she seems me looking upset or not smiling she asks me if everything is okay and why I’m sad. I work as hard as I can to earn something to be able to raise and educate her.

There were several times while I was in remand where they would ask me to come and see bodies from the camps and detention centres, that it may be my husband.

Sometimes they call me and ask if I’m not going around to inquire about my husband’s whereabouts. They think because I’m not doing so, it means I know he’s alive and that he is with us.

What I need most is support to carry out self-employment, it’s what a lot of women in my circumstances need. Many of them have been forced into prostitution to earn something but because of my child, I won’t do that.

I didn’t want the interview recorded because another woman gave an interview, the conversation was recorded and aired on the BBC. When the CID and those who she spoke about found out, she was tortured. And no photographs, right? Photographs of my face are already all over the CID’s offices. Even now, if someone reads this story, they might be able to tell it is about me because I have repeated to so many officers many times.”

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